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Breaking News: Trump Administration Announces End to DACA Program

The Trump Administration formally announced this morning that it will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), which allows young undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States. The program currently protects an estimated 800,000 people known as “DREAMers,” who entered the country illegally as children.

The DACA program was formed through executive action by former President Barack Obama in 2012. For decades, lawmakers have been struggling to pass a bill to shield young illegal immigrants from deportation. President Obama mandated DACA as the result of being unable to muster Congressional support. Critics of the program have deemed it unconstitutional since the legislative branch, not the executive branch, is responsible for making laws. Recently, Attorney Generals for six states threatened legal action against DACA if President Trump did not make a decision by September 5, 2017.

Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke said the administration, facing legal challenges to the program, “chose the least disruptive option,” allowing the program to wind down in six months and placing the responsibility on a sharply divided Congress.

The specific details of the new policy, according to two administration officials are as such:

  • The administration won’t consider new applications for legal status dated after September 5, 2017;
  • If you are not already protected by the program, you are unable to apply. Applications filed before today that are pending will continue to be processed;
  • Anyone who has a DACA permit expiring between now and March 5, 2018 can apply for a two-year renewal. That application must be submitted by October 5, 2017; and
  • Some “DREAMers,” those with permits that expire between now and March 5, 2018, will be eligible for legal status for another two-plus years. For others, legal status ends as early as March 6, 2018.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement says its enforcement priorities have not changed. It has no plans to target DACA holders as their permits expire. They will be eligible for deportation but will remain a low priority. In the past, USCIS generally has not referred cases in which a person’s DACA application is denied to immigration enforcement authorities unless the case involved a criminal offense, fraud, or a threat to national security or public safety.

DACA allowed individuals who were brought to the United States as children or teens before mid-2007 to apply for protection from deportation and work permits if they met certain requirements. These requirements included the following:

  • Beneficiaries had to be under the age of 16 upon entering the country;
  • Could be no older than 31 as of June 15, 2012;
  • Lived continuously in the U.S. since mid-2007;
  • Had to be enrolled in high school or college, already have a diploma or degree, have a GED certificate, or be an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. military; and
  • Have no felony criminal convictions, significant misdemeanor convictions, no more than three other misdemeanor convictions, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

The DACA program did not provide lawful immigration status. Instead, through what the Obama administration characterized as the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, it granted approved applicants a two-year work permit and deferral from removal from the U.S. The deferrals and work permits could also be renewed for additional two-year periods.

Today’s decision leaves Congress facing increasing pressure to find a solution for a population that was estimated in 2012 to include as many as 1.8 million immigrants – of which about 800,000 have been granted deferred status under DACA.

Berardi Immigration Law is dedicated to providing our clients with the most accurate and up-to-date information possible. Be sure to check our blog frequently for the most recent news and updates.